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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The opposite of love ...

This time it was different. I didn't get that tingle I felt the first time we met and, after conversation and handing me his phone number, his finger tips brushed gently the hairs on my arm. Nor did I experience the feeling I had the second time we met - a year and a half later - when it seemed the rest of the world faded away the first time we made love.

He was my ... what? What word to describe it? The slightly clandestine sounding "lover"? The legalistic sounding "partner"? The clinical sounding "significant other"? The phrase "boyfriend" with it's echoes of high school puppy love? All those words and phrases seem inadequate now.

Regardless of whatever lable I could attach to what he was, he is now my ex. He became my ex almost six years ago when whatever we had been for almost six months ended with the sounds of dresser drawers opening and closing and hastily packed boxes thudding into the bed of a pickup truck. With the exception of two phone conversations and one face-to-face conversation during the first few weeks of our uncoupling, I had not seen him since.

Until Saturday.

Despite the different circles in which we move - he with his gay softball leagues and drinking buddies and I with my gay politics and internet chat buddies - Kansas City is not such a large town that we could expect never to run into each other again. Still, I wanted to be ready for that moment when we came face to face ... to have just the right withering reparte or devastating bon mot that would be my exit cue and the blade that would forever sever whatever tenuous connection might still exist between us.

But when I saw him, I felt ... nothing. There was no desire to deliver a belated coup de gras, of the verbal (or any other) variety. Instead I walked on, not caring if he noticed me, neither trying to escape notice nor attract it.

Was this the same man about who I scribbled for months in my journal, first trying to figure out what was wrong with him, then what was wrong with me, and finally what was wrong with us? Was this the same man who inspired me to weave fantasies in which I extracted a measure of revenge by adding Tobasco sauce to his lube? Was this the same man whose truck I kept watching for during morning rush-hour traffic helicopter shots in the hope that I'd one day see it flattened between two huge tractor-trailer rigs?

There was a time I hated him with a white-hot passion. There was a time that not a day went by without me wishing him terrible suffering in a never-ending variety of ways. There was a time when I wasted my time hating him for so many different reasons. But hate is not the opposite of love. They are the same coin, simply opposite sides. To hate someone and to love someone both require passion and that passion binds you to the object of hate or love.

There's a reason passion is described as a flame or a fire. Like a fire, passion must be fueled. If you don't feed the fire, it burns itself out and fades to cold ashes. An old Native American story puts it best: Inside every man is a black dog of anger and hatred and a white dog of love and compassion. Which dog becomes the dominant of the two depends on which one you feed.

Much later Saturday I reflected on the lack of emotion I felt seeing my ex. A quote came to mind (which I later discovered is from Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, author and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize): "The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference."